Different levels of strategy


August 14th, 2007

Last week I heard a friend, Stephen Petris, talk about his view of strategy in organisations. It made a lot of sense. I’ll try and capture the essence of his message. He was mainly referring to government organisations.

Corporate strategy encompasses the essence of the organisation – what it costs to exist and what value it contributes. It should articulate the expectations of the ‘centre’ and BIG initiatives – bigger than any portfolio in the organisation.

Business strategies are about achieving alignment with what’s changing in the external environment and the capability to respond. Because of the constant change that businesses are responding to this alignment is never achieved. It’s a way of making sure organisations are continually responding to the external environment – rather than stagnating.

Program strategies identify how individual projects contribute to outcomes. This is the area where something like program logic can be used to describe the contributions of various projects and activities to the broader outcomes.

Functional strategies describe the day-to-day business and how it is conducted.

This is a useful framework to have in mind when a client asks for a workshop to develop a strategy. First question might be: what level of strategy do you really mean?

Oh, and another thing Stephen said was that the meaning of ‘long-term’ has shifted. In his industry (agriculture) long-term used to mean 10 – 30 years; now it’s lucky to be three years (probably 12 months!) given the rate of change in the external environment.

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